I still can’t decide whether I would’ve preferred this episode to be substantially longer or not to exist at all. On the one hand, Danner’s tale, like Zoë’s last week, failed to add any new pieces to the whodunit puzzle. It’s nice to see Zoë as something other than the sparkly object of various horndogs’ fantasies and to understand Danner as someone whose god-awful experiences with the LAPD are shaping her approach to the Xavier case. But for the purposes of a limited murder-mystery series, wouldn’t we have gotten more out of a Jenn No. 1 interrogation or, heck, even a half-hour chat with that lascivious chem teacher (if he could pry his lips off Quiet Heather long enough to make a statement)? Another part of me, though, found Danner’s story far too weighty to fit comfortably inside a half-hour comedic riff on Law & Order–type procedurals and wanted to see her chapter extended. Or maybe what I actually want is for the Danner narrative to get its own series; in this one, her account of structural corruption in the police force sits pretty darn uneasily alongside episodes about Brett’s hard-on for cars and Yasper’s text-ellipses ballads.
Danner has witnessed her (predominantly white and male) L.A. colleagues getting promotions and backslaps for just glancing at evidence and arresting the most convenient suspect, and she knows these fellas tend to close ranks when their decisions are challenged. The ringer en route to Xavier’s chateau will slap cuffs on Aniq whether he’s guilty or not, so before the slimiest gumshoe in the west arrives, Danner needs to have cracked the case. Culp, wandering the recording studio in search of whatever Aniq has been using to eavesdrop, reminds his partner she could lose her badge if she doesn’t grovel to the Captain and retreat from the investigation or, alternatively, have her eureka moment right this instant. But Danner needs Culp on her side, and to do this, she’s got to convince him that Mr. Aldrin Germain is not the crime-fighting superstar Culp thinks he is. It’s story time, Booski Wooski. Buckle in.
Ever since she was a little girl clutching Police Officer Barbie in her arms, Danner has wanted to emulate the men in her family by joining the force. When her dad died, she ditched her teaching gig and enrolled in the police academy, quickly discovering how right her father was about its inhospitality toward women. Danner is quick both on the obstacle course and with her comebacks to testosterone-fueled heckling, but she knows she’s still seen by the “boys in blue” as a weak link. This becomes even clearer to her once six years have passed and she’s still stuck monitoring perimeters and fielding complaints about stolen packages while her cocky Academy classmate Germain (Reid Scott) struts around in his big-kid detective shoes. Danner takes seriously her oath to serve and protect, but it wears on her that people with far less talent and far fewer ethics shimmy up the job ladder while she’s still stuck on the beat with a dingus like Officer Kleyes (Jimmy Tatro). Oh, Kleyes. Linkin Park has some air-drum-worthy bops, but come on, my guy. Focus.
When Danner realizes that the package thief caught on an old lady’s doorbell cam resembles the hoodied, green-haired figure who committed murder in the very same neighborhood, she sees an opportunity to help out on one of Germain’s investigations. Maybe she’ll even get that long-awaited promotion! Germain’s praise of Danner’s work spurs the plucky cop to continue her dig into the case, leading her to the Echo Park residence of sweet, Kermit-haired Willow (Barbie Ferreira). The two bond over lost parents and studly Daikini swordsmen with Danner ultimately concluding that the girl may have swiped an egg cooker or two but she almost certainly didn’t kill anyone. Germain reaches a very different verdict, which is that evil weed whipped Willow into a murderous frenzy. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time that happened.
Even though Willow’s prints absolutely weren’t found at the crime scene, and hoodies and dyed hair are de rigueur for Echo Parkers, Germain charges the stoner with homicide. As he warms his self-satisfied cop tummy with full-fat goat milk and just a kiss of cocoa, Danner secretly visits the victim’s husband. TV writer Vaughn (Fred Savage) has a framed Legal Beagle poster hanging in his foyer, and I like to believe he didn’t have anything to do with the making of the film but is just a huge fan. Anyway, Danner tells the bereaved scribe that she believes a copycat watched the old woman’s video (probably on the Nextdoor app, home to all manner of Ring-recorded dramas) and dressed similarly to the egg-pod pilferer in order to frame Willow for murder. Vaughn, his brain dancing with all the hackneyed Marshall Law episodes he’s inflicted on the world, hyperventilates that he might be a suspect. His paranoia is quieted, however, by the arrival of set-costumer Tatiana (Kelen Coleman), who consoles Vaughn in a tight black dress that barely covers her hoo-ha. Everyone mourns differently, but it sure looks as though Vaughn mourns into the soft bosom of the wardrobe mistress. Danner, sensing sparks between the grieving duo, decides a set visit is in order.
From Tatiana’s chatty coworker Sam (Austin Boyce), Danner learns about Vaughn’s midday siestas and his pre-murder borrowing of wardrobe items. She deduces that Vaughn saw the internet video, selected an outfit that matched Willow’s garb, popped on gloves to hide his lack of a hand tattoo, and sacrificed his lunch-hour snooze in favor of spouse-slaying. (He missed Chili Day to do it, too. Tatiana must be quite the woman.) Germain, his po-po bros, and even Danner’s mother urge Danner to quit meddling; Germain has already picked his killer, and Danner will torpedo her career prospects if she refuses to be a “team player.” But Danner won’t let Willow go down for a crime Danner is positive she didn’t commit. She tells Willow’s attorney what she’s discovered, knowing that if he blabs about Danner being the information leaker, she’ll be stuck shuffling papers in some windowless purgatory until the end of time. And he does, relegating her to the role of basement pariah until she relocates to the Bay Area. But at least Willow’s case gets dropped, and Vaughn retains the freedom to write (or simply geek out over) several more installments in the Legal Beagle oeuvre.
Danner ends her narrative by declaring that she can’t protect the innocent if Germain swoops in, takes a cocoa-dusted dump all over her work, and drags to prison the first suspect who looks at him funny. But then she sees the open door of the recording booth. Suddenly the pieces come together! She knows whodunit and how it was dun! Sure, she hasn’t quite worked out how Jenn No. 2 fits into the whole shebang, but maybe some disappearances are meant to stay disappeared.
• In addition to providing costumes for Marshall Law and Waikiki Medical, Tatiana works for a show that’s simply, hilariously titled Fire.
• Some one-star reviews of the famed Eggpod Microwave Egg Maker accuse the product of “explod[ing], discharging egg and egg shells like shrapnel” and causing “the door of the microwave [to blow] open violently.” If Xavier owns an egg cooker, Danner ought to bring that puppy into the interrogation room ASAP.
• Joan’s vote for homekilling queen: Close-up on Maggie looking like the Bad Seed tyke with her adorable little smile and cute-as-can-be “quiet song.” Did she sing that song to Xavier right before she quieted him forever?!